Week nine: Help! I live with a meat and potatoes lover!

Medium rare Grilled T-Bone Steak with potato wedges

This is it.  You’ve finally made the decision to change your lifestyle and get your daily diet on the healthy eating track.  You can envision your future self with more energy, healthier and happier.  You throw yourself into healthy eating with abandon and begin studying recipes and cooking meals with labels such as low-fat, high-fiber, protein-loaded and heart-healthy.  Foods you had once avowed to hate forever and wouldn’t think of letting into your kitchen you find you now love.  You shudder at the thought of the quantities of junk food and refined sugars that used to pass your lips.

The problem?  The people in your life – especially in your household – that are just as committed to the old way of eating as you are to your new, healthy menu.  They’re hanging on to it with the tenacity akin to super glue, as skittish as a shy colt when you enthusiastically down a plate of kale and lentils.

I understand, truly I do.  I have been in the position where my husband looked at me like I was an alien-in-a-Kim-suit when I served a meal that wasn’t loaded with meat and potatoes, and nary a fried item in sight.  If there are kids in the house, they’re not fazed by the new-you-alien but rather by the broccoli steaming in the serving bowl.  And kids will trick you.  I clearly remember that as a child, one of my stepdaughter’s favorite foods of all time was broccoli and cheese.  Then the preteen years hit and instantly (and I do mean instantly, it was overnight!) she was transformed into a hater of vegetables of all kinds.  There ensued years of trying to stick to a healthy lifestyle while dealing with a picky kid addicted to junk food and a husband that wanted meat and starches only.

When we commit to making changes to our lifestyles, especially to how we eat, it makes a major impact on the people in our lives.  It’s one thing to say, “Honey, kids, I’m going out for a jog!” vs. “Honey, kids, I’m overhauling the way I eat and I’d appreciate it if you’d join me!”  It gets a little more personal when you bring it to the dinner table.  The reaction you hope for is that they throw their support behind you whole-heartedly and join you.  On the other hand, they may support your efforts but decide to let you go your own merry way while they continue with the old eating pattern.  They may also get defensive and let you know in no uncertain terms you’re on your own and have no intent of even trying to incorporate a few healthy things into their diet and make small changes.

The good news is it’s completely possible to live an intentional, healthy life and include the people you love without your household turning into a battle zone and keeping everyone happy.  It takes a little compromise and a good deal of commitment on your part to stick to your healthy eating regardless of the path your loved ones choose.  Listed below are some tips that will help to introduce the people in your life to healthier eating habits, keep the peace and promote a healthy home environment as well.

  1. Make small changes. As with any fitness or diet plan, if you make huge changes in the beginning you’re setting yourself up for failure.  It’s the same with your loved ones.  If they’re used to things like spaghetti and garlic bread or pork chops and mac and cheese for supper, they’re going to balk if you suddenly quit serving it all together and hit them with brussel sprouts and tofu.  Make the tweaks small; make minor changes a little bit at the time.  If you have a lot of starches in your meals, such as both bread and potatoes, replace one of them with a green vegetable.  Take several weeks and cut back on soft drinks and sugary tea a little at a time.  Make one tiny change per week, too small to raise alarm, but they’ll add up and introduce a healthier approach to eating almost without notice.
  2. Don’t label it. It may be a healthy diet, but don’t refer to it that way.  Most people don’t like change and are instantly on guard when the words “healthy” and “change the way we’re eating” are used.  They will immediately associate the new way with rabbit food, tasteless, bland and boring and as having to sacrifice good stuff like junk food.
  3. Lead by example. Regardless of what others around you do, when you begin making changes to your diet and accomplishing health goals left and right, you will have more energy and feel amazing, which positively affects your interaction with others.  Others around you will notice the change, want the same thing and just may follow your lead.
  4. Dispel the myths. Most people associate low-fat, sugar-free or gluten-free with healthy, but this isn’t really the case.  It can be tastier, lower-calorie and healthier to use a little bit of flavorful, regular products than a larger amount of the low-fat, sugar-free or gluten-free stuff. If your loved ones see you eating a slice of regular cheese vs. rubbery, tasteless, low-fat cheese, eventually they’ll realize healthy eating isn’t quite so bad after all!
  5. Involve them. If your loved ones turn their noses up at anything that doesn’t resemble pizza or say “bleh!” if it isn’t loaded with sugar, get them involved in the meal planning and preparation.  Ask them what fruits they’d like for you to purchase or what meat they want one night for supper.  No one likes to be forced into anything, but if they have a voice in the matter and request certain foods they’ll probably eat it.  Allow them in the kitchen to help with the meal preparation.
  6. Make easy swaps. You can make simple swaps to cut back on fat and sugar-laden foods that will mostly go unnoticed.  Swap Greek yogurt for sour cream, quinoa or farrow for pasta or rice and turkey or chicken sausage for pork sausage.  Instead of a bagel or white toast in the morning, scramble eggs, add veggies and roll in a whole-wheat tortilla.  Know your loved ones’ preferences and work with those to make their favorites healthier and keep them from feeling deprived.
  7. Start with snacks instead of main meals. If you mess with supper too much you may have a war on your hands and alienate everyone from the get go.  Changing snacks is a little less drastic and an easier way to introduce healthy foods to your loved ones.  Instead of chips, try a little peanut butter on apple slices or celery sticks.  Make turkey or fruit wraps and cut into slices for snack time or larger portions for a quick lunch instead of sandwiches.
  8. Don’t throw in the towel!  It won’t go perfectly, especially in the beginning.  You may hear the words “gross” or “not in this lifetime!”  If you’re ready for a lifestyle change but your household isn’t, don’t talk about it constantly or push the issue.  They will watch you and possibly start to pick up on a few healthy habits as they begin to see the changes in you and how great you feel.  No food is prohibited; have potatoes with your steak but only occasionally and grilled instead of fried.  As with any food you want to limit, keep portion control in mind and only have one serving available so no one will be tempted to gorge later.  Give it time and stay committed to your plan; even if you’re the only one eating healthy you’re on the winning side!

Week One: The First Step

Making a lifestyle change is never easy.  Let’s face it, we all want to have our cake and eat it too.  We want to eat fried chicken and ice cream (at least I do!).  When we exercise, a light stroll around the neighborhood is justification to go home and have that bowl of ice cream, or a little bite of brownie, because, hey, after all, we just walked, we deserve it!  Or, one of my favorite and overused excuses for indulging is a really stressful or hectic day at work.  If I’ve been on a dead run for most of the day and/or I’ve been pulled in a hundred different directions at once and am wound as tight as a spring, french fries at the drive through, a double-tall-mocha-caramel frappuccino is just what will relax me.  After all, I deserve it!

What it all boils down to is the part of our humanity that wants to control our lives, every single part of it, eating and exercising included.  We want to say, “Nobody’s gonna tell me what to do!”  Not taking care of the body God gave us is really a control issue.  But I propose this to you:  Overeating, eating consistently unhealthy and little or no exercise is controlling you and taking away your freedom, not the other way around.  When you take a few days to eat right and exercise, don’t you feel quite different, both physically and mentally?  Your energy level goes up and you sleep better.  Little things don’t bother you quite as much.  You feel better because you have the freedom from unhealthy and, for some, compulsive behaviors.

Other than the obvious, why does this freedom make us feel so good?  Because it lines us up with our true selves, our purpose for being, to walk in perfect harmony with our Creator.  God didn’t make robots; He gave us the freedom to choose.  When we choose to surrender all aspects of our lives to Him, including diet and exercise, we will experience joy and harmony in a way we never dreamed we could.  Surrendering all things to God gets us (egos, wants, compulsions) out of the way so He can bring out your best and you can have a more perfect walk with Him.

Surrender.  Wow, that’s a hard one for most of us.  It’s also not a once and you’re done kinda thing.  It is an ongoing process, sometimes several times a day.  If we ask, God will show us all sorts of areas we’re holding back from His control.  If it’s eating, you may need to surrender every morning, possibly even at every meal.  You may be one of those that have a very limited list of what you do like to eat or would consider eating (to put it plainly, a picky eater).  The key is to find things you do like and make healthy, balanced choices.  You like fried chicken, but it’s obviously not a healthy option.  Try oven-fried chicken – dredge a skinless chicken breast in an egg wash, season with herbs, roll it in panko crumbs and oven bake it.  You love greens, but only the way grandma used to make them, shiny with ham grease.  Oh, forgive us Father for what that does to our arteries!  You’d be surprised how good vegetables are cooked in chicken broth with a piece or two of turkey bacon thrown in for seasoning.  Another option – if you have cooked a ham, put the broth in the refrigerator overnight, skim off the fat the next day and then use it for seasoning vegetables.  You have all the glorious ham flavor without the fat.  It also freezes nicely for future use.  Pour the defatted broth into an ice tray and, after frozen, put the cubes in a freezer bag.  The next time you need it for seasoning it’s as easy as taking a few cubes and dropping into a pot of vegetables.

How about exercise?  I know our schedules are just so packed that it’s difficult to find the time for exercise.  How about giving up one hour of television, or even 30 minutes, for a little exercise of your choice?  Walk the dog, easy aerobics, play tag with the kids.  If you’re really honest with yourself, I’m sure there are little bits of time throughout the day you can work in exercise.  Even parking in the spot that is at the other end of the parking lot from where you need to enter a building can add steps and more exercise to your day.

As you take this first step, I suggest you consider this an opportunity to focus on the discipline of surrender.  How willing are you to let God be in control and allow Him to work in you?  As you take this first step, use this opportunity to look for ways to allow God to direct your steps every day, and ask Him to open your eyes to areas you are holding on to as tightly as you can and not letting Him have the control, especially in the areas of eating and exercise.  Start your day with prayer and have conversations with Him during the day to keep you focused on His perfect will for you, both spiritually and physically.

Prayer:

Father God, right here, right now I give back to you the works of Your own hands.  You designed me and made me, and I know You desire for me health and wholeness.  Help me to want Your will for me.  I know that I need Your strength and power to begin a healthy lifestyle.  I am surrendering all of my excuses and rationalizations and giving them to You.  Lord, I am raising the white flag and asking You to be in control from this point forward.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Scriptures:

Romans 12:1

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

Isaiah 40:31

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

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